I begin today by telling you something of this wonderful journey in Finland, Helsinki and northern Lapland. The Scandinavian countries have always fascinated me. But, a bit for the climate, I always set aside the idea of visiting them. The summer, sea and sun feels like warm and in the winter I never floated the idea of going there as it's too cold in those places!
With the excuse to take our children to a cooler place, we took the flight to Sweden and the choice was more than apt. The excuse was obvious, to take the kids to Santa's house. But the real purpose was to get lost in the beautiful nature of this region, so wild and sparsely inhabited. From there came the idea of going to the North Cape and why not Lapland in winter?
Believe me, when I was on the sled by huskies, it was all cold, but I did not want even for a moment to be at that time in the Maldives. I love the sea, but I also love a lot of snow and I wanted to lose myself in those landscapes, where nature is untouched.
We left Germany on December 26 and we landed in Helsinki in the early afternoon, and it was already dark and raining. I expected a city covered in white but instead the temperatures were quite high. I could already picture photos taken at the port with the frozen sea, but then nothing. In Helsinki we stayed two nights and we enjoyed a very well organized city tour with regard to the means of transport available at any time.
Helsinki does not need any introduction. It is perhaps the capital with the best Nordic flavor in the whole Scandinavia. We admires its white gothic cathedral or the Orthodox Cathedral, but above all not to lose, whatever the season is the fish market. It is not the tourist place such as Bergen and the prices here are definitely the most affordable in Scandinavia. Eating at the fish market is a feast for the senses. You find fish cooked, raw, to cook, already seasoned and lots other variants. Take it home and freeze it to savor the north for a long long time!
Suomenlinna is a fortress built on an archipelago at the entrance of the Helsinki bay, about a twenty-minute ferry ride from the port, and one of the places that every guidebook advised to visit. Our first morning in Helsinki we decided to embark to reach it and spend some time to know the place and the history of this castle. Suomenlinna is formed by six islands and is considered one of the finest monuments of the Finnish national culture.
It not for nothing is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its construction began in the eighteenth century, when Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden. He came under Russian rule in 1808, remaining there until 1917 when, following the declaration of independence of Finland, converted permanently to a Finnish bastion. In fact, the translation of its name is Fortress of Finland. Today, about 900 Finns still live inside.
There are several ferry companies that cover the ride to Suomenlinna. We used the tourist ticket lasting a day, of which we have already spoken. The building has a marked trail about 2 km long which covers the different points of interest of the same. The Visitor Center is located at halfway and therefore should have available the information already before embarking in Helsinki.
Along the way you can meet buildings which were used as barracks and housing for officers and the different garrisons, now converted into shops, restaurants, museums and homes, and then an Orthodox church converted into Gospel, one of the submarines that patrolled the Baltic in last century, walls, guns. Curious are some structures that seem built in pure style Hobbit. Cockpits are camouflaged by the grassy ground, like grass hills with the door, which were used to house the equipment of the guards, and they are scattered mainly in the southern part of the island.
It is worth spending at least a morning to travel the paths of the island, slip into some unemployed bastion and it is recommended to bring a flashlight and groped to imagine the living conditions of the soldiers of centuries past, but also of the population that currently lives there.
Finnish Museum of Natural History is one of the city's museums dedicated to children. Three great thematic areas, the area of the Natural History Museum, the botanical garden Kaisaniemi and Kumpula. The history of life is organized in air issues that attract the natural environments where they lived animals, very addictive.
Sea Life is an aquarium suitable for children to know the life of the abyss. From the most 'dangerous sharks to more' sweet clownfish. Fantastic setting and the composition of the tanks. Heureka is the Museum of Finnish science. covered with a permanent exhibition, with the outdoor area open only during the summer months, the Galileo Science Park, and impromptu exhibitions is one of the most 'fun museums that you can visit in Helsinki with children. Here it is forbidden to be with your hands in your pocket and touch, try and experience fun.
Korkeasaari is the Finnish zoo. Although we are not big fans of zoos, we prefer to see wild animals in nature, I suggest for the particular attention given to the animals placed in a very similar environment to their natural habitat. Linnanmaki is funfair for citizens. Who does not enjoy climbing on the rides on Ferris wheels and drinking a classic cup of hot tea and eating cotton candy? A classic that is always in fashion!
We visited the city just walking around, looking at the shop windows and tucking occasionally in some trendy spot to warm up with tea or coffee and those delicious spicy ginger biscuits, called pipari, the first Finnish word that I learned. I do not deny that I have spent much of the time in the shop and in Marimekko bars, where the latter are a real show of mugs, cups, plates, saucers, cushions, fabrics and decor magazines.
Although the journey was still long I could not resist shopping. I think to myself that one day when I will have a lot of money, I will come back to Helsinki to go shopping, maybe with a friend. The city is not too big and I liked it a lot, probably for all its splendor and charm in summer or in winter with ice and snow. Helsinki was the appetizer, but our obsession, even in those days, was the Lapland.
The initial idea was to go to Lapland to go on safari with husky for 5 days, all organized by a German tour operator, but unfortunately at the time of booking there was no room, but we now wanted to make that trip, whatever be the cost. We spent evenings watching videos, to see ourselves in those magical places.
With the travel agency sold out, there was an excellent opportunity with a flight to Kittila and so on impulse, without thinking too much, I booked it, certain that somehow I would be able to get it organized. From there I started my research, I wrote to various Finnish tour operators to find husky safaris that will do for us.
Clearly we needed to find something that would respect our budget, as the with prices were no joke. Nothing, nothing went well for our pockets. So we have given up the five-day safari, thinking about finding a hotel and maybe a two or three day safari. Through internet we found the hotel, where we stayed, which was just few kms away from the Tundra Park and the owner organized safari with dogs on request. After writing some mails, everything was confirmed.
Of course by booking online you never know where you're headed, but we trusted our instincts. The flight to Kittila was exciting, especially the landing. We arrived at nine in the morning, the track was frozen and it was pitch dark. I was waiting for the hotel owner, who picked us up. After arriving at the hotel, we were welcomed with a hearty breakfast in a true Nordic style.
it was a small family run hotel in the forest, which had a very friendly atmosphere, where I chose the room in the attic. There was immediately a good feeling, and from there it was born a beautiful friendship. I already feel the nostalgia. we did not miss the Finnish sauna without the snow, what a treat!
Dinner was at seven in the evening for all guests, no menu, but only some typically Lappish salmon or reindeer based good dishes, which were cooked very well, and never missing the appetizer and dessert. It was all good.
The hotel owner arranged some magnificent husky safaris, and accompanied us on a reindeer farm and made made us discover the surroundings and the ski resort, which was very welcoming during the Christmas season. No toast and no dinner, only fireworks after midnight. An unusual New Year, but it was fun.
I'd be curious to visit again in the summer, among other located near the Pallas-Yllästunturi national park. It was easy to pick raspberries with the hotel owner, have barbeque at the lake, or hike on horseback in the tundra.
After arriving in Lapland we went to visit a husky farm. The Levi Husky Park, has more than a hundred dogs, all kept very well. The Alaskan husky, suffer less from the heat than the siberian husky. I realized that these dogs are doing well in their environment and are wild like wolves, howling, sleeping on snow and above all they are very happy when they run with sledges. At the same time the cuddly ones are also very sweet with the kids.
Husky and reindeer are the real stars of Lapland. The reindeer is the icon of Finnish Lapland and we are able to visit a farm. In northern Lapland the reindeer farm is for many still the main source of income. In this park we have mini safari suited to families with children. The reindeer is used to tow the sleds and also to watch the arctic landscape. We also made a small ride on the sled, but we were advised to stay calm and in silence so as not to frighten the very shy animal.
The reindeer are semi-domesticated and each animal belongs to a shepherd. All the reindeer live in the wild, and two or three times a year are gathered. It's easy to meet them because, especially in winter, often teem near dwellings. Thanks to our friend we have been lucky enough to visit this small farm, as that day it snowed more than usual and the atmosphere was incredible. The pastor gave us the dry moss and lichen and reindeer ate from our hands. They are very delicate animals that are frightened right away, you approach us only with the sweetness.
Levi has it all from souvenir shops and garment stores, spas, clubs, restaurants, post office and pharmacy and is a truly unique location where are countless fun activities and skiing in all seasons. When it just started to get dark, around two in the afternoon, this family of farmers invited us to their home and we have ourselves heated with a soup with the awesome hospitality of the Lapps. Levi is virtually the capital of winter sports and it will be great experience to come down from the slopes to -30 ° C, while a lot of people, that have nothing to do with Alps, will wake to snowplough.
An incredible experience that made me grow as a person, who gave me that inner peace that I never had, that made me love life even more. I love to go again, even to be able to see the aurora borealis, a starry sky and a sunrise that I have not been lucky enough to see as it snowed continuously for ten days.
Aland Islands is a little paradise in the Baltic Sea, between Sweden and Finland. Here more than 6,500 islands have a name and another 20,000 who are still waiting to be named. Wherever you turn there is a bridge and a new island, all different and each beautiful. They seem to emerge from the sea like the back of a whale, slightly rounded, and they are just like that but the rock consumed in soft shapes from the Ice Age.
Silence is filled with the sounds of nature, its scents, colors. Our children have gone crazy when they found wild strawberries and blueberries almost anywhere. Even simple things, like sitting on a rock by the sea and watch the birds maneuver in flight before diving and fishing, excited by the beauty of this nature, simple and beautiful.
The museum of navigation and the sailing ship Pommern are two must-see attractions to the Aland Islands. It is one of the most interesting museums and engaging for children and young people we have had the opportunity to visit. Wide and curated an exhibition on the history of shipping in Northern Europe, many activities for the whole family. The pier facing the museum is moored the ship to four Pommern trees. A large and beautiful sailing ship which faced the route to Australia completely sailing until the Second World War. Beautiful outside and interesting inside, from the kitchens to the accommodation of crews, passing from the holds and from the outside decks.
The islands are not lacking here, and it might be easy to find a place to spend one or more nights with your family, just as we did. It 'a unique experience, which usually begins with the transfer to the edge of the boat owner. On the island there is the cottage, made from wood, a sauna, a must in Finland, an outside toilet, probably a barbeque, and that's it. For us, the experience was something special, unique for all of us.
The feeling is that of being isolated from the world, for the first time totally out of the world and almost part of the place. On the island, as in our case, there were some conveniences such as Internet access and electricity (battery), but the thrill of adventure was not missing too. The owner has a restaurant in Bomarsund called Furulundsgården near the ruins of a fortress.
It's important to remember to have the provisions of food and drinks before embarking on the private island, as there are no shops to go shopping. The urge to move around here. It's almost impossible to stop and then what better to fit in a kayak and paddle by exploring these places so special. We have placed a child for canoeing for each of us and we started discovering closely reeds interior and the coast, between the sandy beaches and rocky.
Our location for kayaking was the Sandösund camping in Vardo (where we also stayed in a nice room back into an entirely wooden building with grass roof). An adventure for children, an experience full contact with the environment for us. To redo. Even simply walking in the woods, however, take a bike ride or a match on a mini-golf are something special, these are Aland Islands and their magic to make an experience, even simple, superb experience.
For family fun standing there in the open air as well as Smart park at Eckero. What is amazing to Aland is the contact you have with the animals. Their presence is constant and does not escape how little they afraid of humans. Especially the birds , there are many species and is beautiful to see them circling, go for a walk with the puppies who follow them. To be lucky you may also see moose , maybe when they move by swimming from island to island. Children are always attracted by animals, can you imagine when you can see them free in nature.
It will be unhealthy and certainly unusual as the reason but on the way 2 to Vardo no one can not make a stop at the store to Taffel, the local factory of chips. The smell in the air already feels approaching and in shop there really any delicacy. You can not get out of it without a lot of snacks and a photo with the mascot out of the store.
The Aland Islands are north, so here in the summer the sun almost never sets . Although it will be a nice problem to put the kids to sleep at a certain time is a phenomenon that will amaze you, we who live far to the south we have become accustomed. At 11 pm or at 3 am there is always light, no direct sunlight, but a soft light enough to see clearly.
Observe the world around us is something we have learned to appreciate and tried to pass on to our children. That's why when I'm around a good time to collect pebbles to discover their differences and qualities. But here the Aland rocks are the oldest in the world, granite rounded by glacial masses that have billions of years. It easy to identify, in glittering, quartz-rich and mica, for children a real treasure.
With cranberry sauce I am a unique combination, even if different from the kitchen from which we are used every day. But a trip to the Aland islands is also this, try new things! The jug of water, coffee and tea available in every restaurant, the Stallhagen, beer produced in the archipelago. The sweets to coffee, which so resemble those of fairy tales, with windows full of tempting cake slices.
We went to the Degersand beach, the most beautiful of what the locals say. Here is a little gem resort with some wooden cottage well furnished and equipped with every comfort, but there is also the space for camping. The beach is sandy and the seabed drops slowly, good for kids! The outline is beautiful, trees in the background, some red wooden building overlooking the bay. The water is chilly for us who are used to other latitudes, but we are in the Baltic Sea!
We come from the Aland islands in Turku by ferry and in the evening to greet us is a friendly taxi driver who drive us to take us to our hotel. The room has an amazing view of the Aura River. We enjoy the sunset from the Finnish window and Turku magic.
This city, the second in size after the capital Helsinki, of which I had already spoken here, it is surprised by its elegance and sobriety. There is no traffic and not even the typical noise of the big cities, there is a scent of flowers, the smiles of the children and the Finnish colors, and children here in Turku there are many, each family has an average of three, and all are dressed in very colorful clothes.
They enjoy a walk with their parents, to lie down on the grass and play among citizens green parks, everyone has at least one playground dedicated to them. Visit this city with young travelers for us was simple, each attraction is meant to be experienced by children, from the castle to the city's museums.
Turku Castle is one of the best preserved medieval buildings in the whole of Finland. Centrally located, on the banks of the Aura River, is completely open with the kids. You can book a guided tour, as we did, or visit it without a guide. It is about an hour and a half. Wonderful are the rooms, the play of light and the love story between Prince John and Catherine who is told to children. Marvel disguises the room, a large room devoted entirely to children and adults who want to relive the history of the medieval castle, costumes and armor era.
Historic covered market in the city, built in wood and still perfectly preserved. Its counters that smell even after a hundred years of the woods today are used by merchants from different parts of the world to sell their products. So next to the Italian delicatessen, you can eat sushi, or Finnish dishes. Of note Mbakery cafes where you can have your cake city of Turku, the KissMyTurku cake, a kind of blueberry cheesecake with chocolate variations, the recipe is secret, but we do not matter because it delicious.
Superpark, a real indoor playground for young and old. Here you can give vent to their energy, trying to do an agility course with a scooter or skateboard, or jump in the elastic heavy rugs, but also an adventure park under cover, the foam pool, Kokey, basketball, football and a route pedal cars. I only say that I tried to do everything, that I was not the only mother to experience the sights and the kids did not want to leave. The cost of the ticket is 17 € per person
Luostarinmäki Handicrafts Museum is an open-air museum. the village of artisans Turku has remained intact from 800, the houses perfectly preserved, built entirely of wood, now can be visited and recall the life of the time. From the house of the shoemaker to that of a seamstress, by the craftsman who made the hand-stamps what the weaving frame tents. A blast from the past 360 degrees.
It's possible to rent an electric boat and then make yourself a ride on the longest river in Finland, to see the life that revolves around this river. Driving it is simple, it just needs a little bit of practice. Archeological Museum and Modern Art (Aboa Vetus and Ars Nova), this museum is divided into two parts. On the ground floor you can visit a part of the city of Turku the medieval, stone houses and objects found within them. In addition there are various activities for children. On the first floor a beautiful collection of modern art paintings.
On an island in the archipelago of Turku, just a short walk of the old town of Naantali, away from the daily life of people is located on Moominworld , the amusement park dedicated to Moomin. A traditional amusement park, without major attractions, but where children are the protagonists of the story of Moomin. Here you can meet the characters, actively participate in theater shows, or get lost and get involved in the island of pirates called Vaski Island.
In fact, the park is divided into two parts, the Moominworld, the island of Moomin devoted to more children with the characters, stories and locations in the magical world, and Vaski island, dedicated to the children a little bit more big, an island where the little ones can test their skills in difficult and engines but made no never lose games paths enthusiasm to find out which game will be the next.
The Moominworld is a theme park very different from what we are used to, there are no roller coasters or big adrenaline slides, but many of the characters of Moomin story with which to interact. We welcome you to their cottage built to measure, with kitchen, bedroom and bath, a small and a large stage where during the day are represented skits in which children can participate. There 's also a path in the woods where children go through the ice house or a Tibetan bridge, the park is dedicated nienta afraid you little travelers. A large dining area to eat local specialties and also several souvenir shops. We spent a fun morning, relaxing and exciting at the same time.
The afternoon was spent at Vaski island, the island of the park is located 20 minutes by ferry from the Moominworld, a small cruise to the fun. The park is organized in stages, each stage has a riddle and a game to be executed, the search for gold in archery, blowgun from the ropes to climb. A large parking area to eat something to the wooden kiosk or cook a grid. There was who and who cooked sausages and sausages grilling marshmallows area is also set up a small farm with goats and chickens.
The isthmus of Punkaharju, north of the lake Saimaa network, is a narrow 7 km long strip of land, consisting of a chain of hills during the glacial period, covered by forests; It is one of the most famous images of the Finnish Lake District. Separate Puruvesi Pihlajavesi and lakes and offers excellent views and places where you can have a picnic or a bathroom.
The road through it is dotted with areas where to park the car to enjoy the surrounding nature in the form of forests, lakes and views. Inside, in a peninsula that opens to the south, is the oldest hotels in Finland, the Valtionhotelli, which was built in 1845 as a forester's lodge with the support of the Emperor Nicholas I.
Worth follow it in both directions of traffic as the views change with the change of perspective. If time permits and if you want, you should follow some of the paths that cross the isthmus (which is a nature reserve) and passing through its most characteristic places, such as Lusto museum (the biggest forest museum in the world), a old train station, some beaches, wooden bridges, viewpoints, picnic areas.
Passing the isthmus, you come to the village of Punkaharju, where you meet the Art Centre Retretti, the largest arts center in the Nordic countries. For what we have seen, it is worth visiting its underground caves, even without the presence of works of art. The center consists of 2000 square meters of conventional galleries and about 3000 square meters of underground exhibition halls. Inside the cave there is also an auditorium that can accommodate up to a thousand people.
A few kilometers further west you come to the village of Putikko, famous for its wooden houses. The peculiarities that we found is that you are closer to each other than other wood houses that meet throughout the region. That is, they form a real or own agglomerate instead of being scattered. Porvoo is a town located about 50 km from Helsinki and the second oldest in Finland. The old town of Porvoo still preserves the atmosphere of ancient times, making this country an almost compulsory step for tourists.
Porvoo is located almost at the mouth of a river. Along one of its sides there is a large green area, right in front of the old city, the latter with its facade of wooden houses painted red. It is nice to walk through the streets of this town, largely closed to traffic, and observe the typical houses, the atmosphere of another age, urban design, order, cleanliness and quietness of everything and stop for a coffee or tea in one of the terraces of small bars and cafés who meet walking.
There is one in particular, along the bank of the river where you can sit on a boat for a coffee. It's called Porvoon Paahtimo and is located in the old red brick building near the modern bridge (see last photo). As well as bar-café is also a roasting; There it is in fact toasted the own production and then sold ground coffee to visitors.
Tourist information office there handed a brochure where we propose a walking route that crosses the entire historical center of the city. The route starts from the same office of tourism and passes through the most famous buildings such as the Simolin house (the oldest commercial warehouse in Finland), the town hall, the palace, the old bridge, the cathedral.
Wild Taiga in the easternmost region of the country includes areas of Suomussalmi and Kuhmo. The experience in the forest in search of bears was almost transcendental . From the town of Kuhmo, we reached the base camp at Kuikka, an area surrounded by forest located a few kilometers from the Russian border. From here we are organized real safari to see bears, wolves, eagles.
We spent almost five hours in hiding. 5 hours of total silence spent staring at the forest, peering through binoculars among trees and vegetation. The wait has been rewarded with the sighting of a wolverine, a small bear. The river, by the almost unpronounceable name Pajakkakoski, runs through the heart of the city of Kuhmo. For me to go into the sauna and plunge into the frozen waters of Lake Lammasjärvi before returning to the sauna. well, a bit terrified, especially the icy waters of the lake.
Before I moved to Oulu I had not even the slightest idea that this city existed. When I got here, a little over a year ago, I had so many other things on my mind that just ignored it to what was around me; but when my blind eyes opened and my heart began to be more receptive to the beauty of the world around, I could not help but share what I see and hear. So here are some technical detail, and not, to begin to build this city in mind that, if not to live like me, it is worth visiting.
First, what state are we? Scandinavia is a vague term that stands for something up there, to the north of Europe, rather cold and unfamiliar. We are in Finland, was that not even he knows what belongs many say even not part of Scandinavia. State that you are still building and finding out, it is understanding and identifying. It is a young state, who spent long periods under Swedish domination first and then Russian. But back to us, we return to Oulu.
Oulu is big, big compared to everything around him, to all that exists to its latitude or beyond. Oulu is the sixth most populous city in the whole of Finland, the most populated northern Finland and one of the most populous northern cities of the world, from there the name of the capital of Northern Scandinavia. Although its a little over 190 thousand inhabitants not make it a metropolis, Oulu has no shortage of surprises.
Oulu could be defined as the waters of the three cities. In fact, it is washed by the sea, river and lakes. It's where the Oulujoki river meets the Baltic Sea with an estuary at the mouth. Propio is structured in a series of small islands and the mainland, connected together with bridges.
Oulu is a city to live by walking or cycling. In fact, this city has the highest per capita amount of bike paths in Finland. Yes you read right, bicycle! And I, have not been covered by an absurd topographical slip saying that Oulu is the capital of Northern Scandinavia. Because here, even with -30 and ice everywhere you go on the same bike! Solution to stay on two wheels, as well as a miracle! Here we are not only used for the machines, but also for bicycles.
This is because, to my amazement, the snow is not cleared as constantly happens in Italy when it snows. Try to understand me, obvious that if a night it snows 20 cm, can expect swept, but it's just the biggest that take away. I'm still trying to understand the motivation, but I think it is mainly due to the fact that the Finns, especially in the north, are so used to the snow and ice that you do not make a big deal to have it everywhere.
In winter, in fact, the sun is scarce here one step away from the polar circle, coming to be seen no more than three hours a day in the darkest times. Here it is that the snow becomes an ally in fact it, thanks to its color and the great ability to reflect light, makes the darkness less dark. In keskus, or city center, you can find the main square Torinranta. The location of this place is truly magnificent: the view is on the sea.
If you come in winter, you can admire the ice castle that is annually built, so the raw material is not lacking, and skating on the inside. If you prefer to come in the summer, then here you served the market! There, you can enjoy a polar ice cream, the famous metrilaku (licorice pipes filled with different kinds of tastes) and local food cooked on the spot. Do not be intimidated by the silent presence and a very special little man: Toripolliisi, the policeman of the square.
Already from the square and the buildings that surround it, you will realize that Oulu is the perfect marriage between ancient and modern . With his back to the market and looking towards the sea, you will find on your left a number of old red houses: those are old warehouses recycled to give accommodation in shops or restaurants of typical products.
To your left, instead, you can admire two very modern buildings: the library and the theater. Passing in the middle of these two examples of modern architecture, check here another bridge, which connects you to a very historic part of the city, dotted with centuries-old wooden houses. In the crossing, look around you; the view is spectacular. If you're lucky, you can admire sunsets that will leave you breathless!
The main factor that makes me love this city is the contact with nature. Despite living just 3 km from the city center, from the windows of my apartment I do not see nothing but pine and birch. Oulu is a city that gets carried away by the vortex of a hurry, but it respects and lives. Here I have learned to know me, here I have learned to breathe deeply the beauty. The best way to reach the city is by air, especially in winter,
Finland wants to be discovered, then that does not have the gaudy or violent beauty that the casual observer can grasp so flight after a fleeting observation. Those who arrive in this country has to throw away from him all sorts of everyday concern, should very well open your eyes and mind to feel and understand the soul of the landscape and its hidden harmonies. Thus only he will come back happy and full of new impressions to his country. Finland is one of those places that will remain in the heart.
Finland Travel Tips
To cut costs, as flights to Helsinki were really expensive, we opted for an arrival in Stockholm and then a cruise to Turku. This might be a low cost alternative to the direct flight, or get to Tallinn and embark to Finland. Internally in Finland you can move with the trains. Or you can opt for flights and reach Ivalo, at far north of Finland, where it is easier to see the northern lights. From both destinations then you can move by public bus or rent a car, if you are practical to drive on snow and ice.
After arriving in Finland the obligatory stage of this trip is Rovaniemi, the home of Santa Claus. Many say it's not worth the effort, which is an artificial village built to do business, but for us it was better to do as you do not believe until you see it for yourself. To stay in Rovaniemi you can opt for an apartment, situated near Santa's Christmas Village or in a business hotel with all the comfort.
Rovaniemi and Santa Claus Village is among the most touristy places in the world and expensive too, but here you have to go, maybe without stopping too. A walk in the middle of winter at night is a sight to enjoy the atmosphere without tourists. Go down then across the Great Lakes area, which you can admire from the tower of Kuopio, going on a nice sunny day. In winter it is very characteristic because the lakes are white expanses that blend with the sky.
It's surely impossible not to endorse Inari, the Lapland in the far north, where nature is unspoiled. Here there is also the museum of the Lappish traditions called Siida, to know and to make the children understand the culture of this people living in extreme conditions. The Northern Lights on the shore of a frozen lake of Lapland should be something memorable. We were also advised to try fishing in the frozen lake.
In this place you can arrange a trip with sled ride by huskies, but it's best to book before you go, as especially in high season, there is high demand. Alternatively you can rent shoes and, as in a huge natural stage, try to skate on the frozen lake surface. For the more adventurous, a unique experience is to sleep a whole night inside a igloo made of ice blocks.
This type of travel cannot be improvised, and must be planned to perfection before leaving because of the extreme conditions that you will find on the spot. You need to carry lightweight protective clothing, compact but warm at the same time. During the excursions you will be provided by the organizers, special suits that you can wear over your clothes.
The Finnish Lapland is attractive in all seasons. I prefer it in the winter, do not worry about the road conditions. Even the autumn in Finland is spectacular for the many colors of the Finnish forests, being made up of many different plants, and this season takes all the shades of red and yellow. The foliage is truly magical, but remember that begins very early compared to our season.
Explore calmly Lapland, do trekking, sail in lakes, try driving a sled pulled by dogs, and that you cannot lose it is to make snowmobile safaris at night, on the border with Russia, hunting bear. Only this emotion is worth the trip.
Of course do not miss the Finnish sauna and the resulting dip in the snow. What you decide to do cross-country skiing, hiking, strolling across frozen lakes, try fishing, to visit the Ice Hotel, or try the icebreaker Sampo that you'll love in Finland. If you want to try to board an icebreaker, the Viking Line that connects Stockholm to Turku or Helsinki is the place for you.
The creaking of ice that breaks the passage of icebreakers in the Arctic night, to reform soon after because of the very strict temperatures, is as exciting as the aurora borealis.
To spend a week in an almost isolated cottage in Finland, you need to go well prepared in case anyone you want to try this experience, which is highly recommended. One of our excursions during their stay in the cottage was the visit to Olavinlinna , the castle of Savonlinna , which is the medieval fortress of stone still in the northern foot of the world.
The castle stands on a small granite island, the huge network of lakes in the region Saimaa, and was founded in 1475 by a Danish knight with the intent to repel attacks from the East. During the centuries, the fortress has passed several times from under Swedish rule and the Russian. Currently it is the seat of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, one of the most famous cultural events in the world of Finland, which takes place throughout the month of July. It is the backdrop addition to various other concerts and events.
Today access to this island-fortress is only possible on foot, crossing a wooden bridge that connects to the rest of the city. We could not visit the entire interior of the castle because they were dismantling the scenarios and arranging some of the rooms after the opera festival, however, it is well worth closer to see it. The entrance to the gardens, the views of the castle from different angles and to the lakes that surround it, the tranquility that reigns everywhere, regardless of the now tourist character of the place; plus it was one of the few sunny days we had.
One of the most representative places of Helsinki is, without a doubt, Kauppatori, the market square. It houses the outdoor market traditional and well-known. On its banks will sell local products such as berries of all kinds, meat, salmon and fresh fish, smoked and dried fish, handicrafts, leather and souvenirs. Near is also the Old Market (Wanha Kauppahalli), a building that houses since 1889 about thirty shops and various bars and restaurants; worth going to see it, even just from the outside, the architecture of its facade.
After having eaten something in the Kauppatori market, we hopped on the tram that within minutes left us at the side of Temppeliaukio Kirkko, the stone church. The church was designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen brothers and its construction was finished in 1969. It is dug into a huge granite rock and covered by a dome whose base appears as a circular window from which enters the external light. From the outside it is nothing important. But the interior is very curious. As well as the Lutheran church, because of its excellent acoustics, is home to numerous concerts and one of the most popular attractions in Helsinki.
Of course, as we have said, it is not a short and an economical route itinerary, but it's a complete itinerary, which you can adapt according to your needs and the time at your disposal. Of course you can follow it on the reverse and your itinerary in Finland will become from south to north.
If you are organizing the trip following my directions, you'll be going from Norway, to Hurtigruten and find yourself in Kirkenes, a city far north of Norway that once belonged to Russia, facing the Barents Sea. You should know that that north Finland has no outlet to the sea. It's something that not everyone thinks, but is the Norwegian-Russian border, thereby preventing the landlocked Finland.
At this point you have two options. You can rent a car or use public transport to follow your route in Finland. If you opt for the car you can also go a little back and go to the North Cape, a place that brought you before jumping on board to Hurtigruten, as the hike is overly expensive. So you can discover it now in peace and freedom.
My advice though is to just skip it. In summer it is a place full of tourists and very expensive for access. In winter, it is a desert and therefore free, but the visitor center is closed. For me it is more fascinating in winter.
If you opt for public transport there is a good bus line that connects Kirkenes to Rovaniemi and from then on a dense and efficient rail network that will allow you to get to Helsinki and from here, or from other places in the south.
Needless to say, the best method is the car because it allows freedom of movement, even if it is not cheap but you can enjoy the most of your trip to Finland.
In this case you can save money by moving with the public and, once you reach your destination means you are interested in turnaround there with the rental car to avoid renting a place and leave it in another, which will cost you more. The services are very efficient and just adjust your speed so as not to have problems but in winter it is better to hire a 4×4.
From Helsinki you can continue to Stockholm with Viking Line.